The Houston Dynamo opened their MLS season Saturday night with a win over DC United. United came into the match without captain Dwayne De Rosario, suspended for an altercation in a preseason match. After Brad Davis missed a first half penalty the game remained scoreless for nearly 80 minutes and it seemed a 0-0 draw was in the cards. That changed quickly with Davis standing over a corner.
Davis’ corner was whipped in toward midfielder Ricardo Clark. DC defender James Riley, making his debut for the team, jumped in front of Clark and headed past his own keeper Bill Hamid. The own goal in the 80th minute proved to be the match winner. The Dynamo would add a second as substitutes Brian Ching and Warren Creavalle combined nicely on the right side, setting up Clark to blast a shot past Hamid in the 89th minute.
The win extended the Dynamo’s unbeaten streak at home, gave the team a valuable 3 points to start the season, and set up an exciting Champions League match Tuesday night with Mexican champions Santos Laguna.
In the first leg of the quarterfinal series the Dynamo started 10 of the 11 starters from Saturday’s game with DC, with Creavalle taking Davis’ place in the starting lineup. Again the Dynamo started slow. Both teams had decent chances in the first half but went into the locker room scoreless. Davis was brought on to start the second half and was inconsistent, his set pieces were subpar and he just seemed out of it. That all changed in the 89th minute when left back Corey Ashe drove forward. Ashe found Davis near the top corner of the box and Davis’ left footed shot found the bottom corner at the back post sending a mixed BBVA Compass Stadium crowd into frenzy. Santos Laguna fans showed up in force and it was a great atmosphere for a midweek match. Moments later the Dynamo had a golden chance to double their lead but debutant Andrew Driver couldn’t get his feet untangled from the ball. Tim Hanley said in his press conference that Driver “wasn’t used to playing on field this nice” and that “the ball fouled him.”
I got a chance to sit in on Santos coach Pedro Caixinha’s post game press conference. Caixinha stressed that Tuesday’s game was just the first half and his team was very confident with the 2nd leg at home. Caixinha also was asked about the narrow pitch at BBVA. Unlike most MLS coaches he refused to use the field dimensions as an excuse, instead saying, “My worry is about the team that developed that style of game, identity. When a team wants to have the ball, you have to change the pattern. It doesn’t matter about the size of the pitch, it doesn’t affect us.” American forward Herculez Gomez also spoke after the match and he was asked if the fact that Santos plays this weekend and the Dynamo do not is an issue. Gomez stated that it didn’t matter and that all the best players in the world do this (playing midweek and on weekends). He also added he would play every day if he could.
Wednesday’s 2nd leg will be an exciting match for sure. The Dynamo go to Mexico with just a one goal lead and the odds are likely not in their favor to advance. I’ll have more on the second leg next week but for the start of the season things have gone well in Houston. A win in league play and a win in Champions League is a great start to what hopes to be a very successful season.
(image courtesy of Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo)